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Playing Dead (Eastbourne, Devonshire Park Theatre)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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As we enter the auditorium, the over-emphasised perspective in Claire Booth’s school gymnasium set, creates a real feeling of claustrophobia and, with the addition of the cast and a locked door, sets the scene beautifully for Playing Dead. the first of the “Murder in the Park” thriller season at the Devonshire Park Theatre.

This new thriller by Philip Gladwin, who also wrote Trial and Retribution, was originally called (when reviewed for this site recently) Kiss Chase but now, after just six weeks on the road, has morphed into Playing Dead. The action of the piece takes place at a 30th anniversary school reunion, where four former schoolmates are accidentally locked in the gym.

John Dean Marcus Hutton, who was mercilessly bullied during his school years, arrives in his big silver Mercedes with tales of his family, house and business success at the ready to teach his former tormentors a lesson – but, is all as it appears?

Mike Stephen Beckett was something of a player in his teenage years. He was the golden boy with the golden smile and a string of girls just ready to fall adoringly at his feet. He made the most of this power and, so we learn as the tale unfolds, was not averse to seeing more than one girl at a time – but, could that be his undoing?

One of those girls was Debbie Jenny Funnell, now a happily-married woman. She was smitten with Mike in their teenage years, and she tells of the traumatic time she had after his sudden departure for university. She recalls the years of pain that she went through before she fully recovered from that ordeal and settled into married life with a man who will never ever leave her – but, why exactly does he stay?

The final character in the piece is Pete, a leather-jacketed, scar-faced dangerous-looking man who has had a varied life since leaving school, but now he too is married and has a child, Daisy. He lives in Dubai, is an executive for a major oil company and is rich beyond his wildest dreams – but, why did he travel half way across the world to attend a school reunion?

All of these questions are answered in a plot with more twists and turns than a theme-park rollercoaster. Where every sentence reveals another secret and where every detail counts. This is a dramatic and, at times, heart-stoppingly good thriller that keeps its audience guessing right through to the very last scene.


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